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Saturday, September 24, 2016

32 Candles

32 Candles
Ernessa T. Carter
338 pages
Amistad an Imprint of HarperColllins Publishers

Some folks sail through adolescence with grace. They may occasionally lose altitude, but eventually, they descend and make a gentle landing. Others come crashing to earth in a tangle and have to work their way up to true flight.

The awkward limbo of adolescence some teens experience comes to mind easily for people who survived it. It’s a period in life when we are not yet fully formed, discovering who we are and who we would like to be. We also find ourselves painfully aware of our appearance as our hormones and genetics drag us through the gates of physical maturity.

Davidia Jones knows this painful awkwardness intimately. Her home life is hell. Her school life is purgatory. In short, her existence is one of vast suffering. It seems that her brief story will end before it has begun. She lives in small town Mississippi with little prospect of getting out. Her mother seems to loathe her existence. When her schoolmates acknowledge her, they torment her with a vicious nickname, Monkey Night.

The situation seems pretty hopeless for Davidia until she discovers the now classic film, Sixteen Candles. She aspires to achieve her own Molly Ringwld ending. If she is patient and coordinates her opportunities, she’ll get the love of her peers and the most popular guy in the school.

Enter James Farrell, an Atlanta transplant, heir to the Farrell Cosmetics fortune, star football player and object of Davidia’s unrequited affections. She adores and obsesses over James who fails to notice her. His sisters on the other hand are fully aware of her and contribute to her suffering.

Shortly after their arrival, a cruel prank that almost destroys Davie, motivates her to shake the dust of Mississippi from her feet. She begins a new life in Los Angeles remaking herself as sultry lounge singer Davie Jones. She has confidence, friends and a laid back lifestyle that suits her.

Everything is just fine, until she runs into James Farrell as fine and fabulous as ever. He doesn’t recognize her from high school and he’s interested in getting to know Davie. As a matter of fact, when Davie tries to leave him and the craziness of her high school experience in the past, he insists. Unable and unwilling to resist, Davie and James embark on a love affair that seems destined for a happy ending, until the sleeping dogs of the past wake up barking.

Ernessa T. Carter tells a story about betrayal, coming of age and true love with edgy humor and intelligence. Davie is a warm, smart and funny character whose unexpected insights make what could easily become tragic in her life a comedic success story. The story parallels the style of cinematic storytelling and is written in first character; Davie pulls you into her experiences in much the same way that Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) and other characters do in our favorite Brat Pack era films of the 80s--“breaking the wall” and engaging us in the unfolding events.

As you read, you hope that 32 candles aren’t too many for a happy ending.

The writer received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book for review.

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